Unbeatable Strategy from the Game of Chess
This was originally published on www.justincampbellplatt.com
The game of chess is one of strategy, persistence and masterful positioning. There is a reason why the extremely universal and simple to grasp board game has become a perennial pastime for many, throughout history and around the world. However, the simplicity of its fundamentals does not mean that the game does not come with its complications and elaborate playing methods which beg to be explored by those who are willing to take on its demanding, yet constantly refreshing, grind. In fact, those who master chess, have an elegance and artful deliberation to their approach to the game.
The premeditated line of attack used in chess is one that you must gain knowledge of. For in observing the techniques used to win purposefully at chess; you can learn a great deal on how you can win, purposefully, at life.
Not everyone knows they are playing — even after making a move.
In chess, it is commonly known by the best players that you should play an opponent who is better or equal to you in skill and knowledge in order to truly test yourself and enjoy the game to competitive completion. This opponent’s aligned or potentially better judgements will keep you on your toes to mentally stay in the game throughout the whole match. If their tactics and strategies are better than your own, you will find yourself learning from them and progressing with visible results. However, choosing to play the player who does not profoundly understand the investment of their moves or the intention behind their decisions is a dangerous game.
Trying to grasp the inner workings of someone who does not have the same deliberation as those who are aware of the deeper workings of life is wasted energy. You need to focus instead on mastering your craft and fine tuning your strategies; or give those who don’t have the same deep understandings, the ability to move in the same way you do. It’s your responsibility to look out for those who carry good intentions with them in their approach and give them the means to do more than they believe possible in their lifetime.
However, be wary in conversing with others. You may find that in actual fact, the person whom you acknowledged did not understand the tactical means to progress as you do, is not deserving of being brought out of ignorance. Some players move to destroy their enemies, without being aware of the consequences or the means in which they’re going about doing just that. Some players, were not aware they were playing the game, even after making a move. They see no further meaning to their actions. They ‘live in the present’ with no tangible explanation as to why their actions can cause others misery. These people manipulate, deceive and rob others of opportunities just out of the selfish fun in doing so. Be aware of these people, but give none of them the satisfaction of your energy or attention.
Play the board not the player.
Now that you have gained the knowledge of whom to avoid, you must grasp the ability of playing the game for the sake of the game and your mastery of it. Those who are ambitious often draw inspiration from having to prove their potential to those who previously lacked faith in them. They gravitate toward receiving accountability for their actions through others; the kind which cannot be obtained though self-derived motivation. However, what feels like limitless inspiration is actually a dark and endless spiral into attention-obsessive behaviour which does not lead to fulfilment or true mastery of the game.
In the game of chess, you must learn to retain and practice the specifics of planning, movement, openings, middlegames and closings. By mastering this comprehensive list, you are on your path to becoming an unbeatable, and deliberately unpredictable opponent. Your path to mastery is a straightforward one, but its one that takes hard work, persistence and a great ordeal of patience. These are the three things that you will find incredibly hard to sustain if you are entirely focused on reacting to your opponents’ decisions, or their outlook on your actions. You must play the board and not the player. The board never changes and can be mastered; but your opponent changes. After the match, they will leave the game and think very little of that very match in years to come. No matter how eventful your encounter, their life will be full of many other matches and confrontations. You too must think little of the emotions drawn out of that intense battle encouraged by someone else in your life. Simply learn from your mistakes and learn how to progress in your skills.
If you find yourself lost in the thought of what others may think about your decisions or what regretful reflections you could invoke in those who manipulated or attempted to destroy you in the past - lean on logic and reason rather than emotion. Gather the facts and lessons you learnt through your valuable experience and move forward. You are a player, but in your world, you should be the only player. Although you must learn to be strategic, as it is an important factor of your game, you don’t have to be a devious and paranoid swindler to win… you just have to be the best, for you. You must seek out to win at creating art, not at creating jealously.
If an opening appears, look for a better one.
Emanuel Lasker, a great German chess player as well as philosopher, taught that a spotted opening is not the same as a readiness to move. This is a classic beginners play in chess. They spot a sufficient move and waste little time in fulfilling built up excitement. Instead, Lasker inspired players to constantly seek out alternatives and to use all available time before committing to a move.
You too must adapt this mentality when approaching any opportunity in life. Do not be immensely tempted by any opportunity, no matter how great it may be. What at first glance looks like the best possible career move, may not actually be the case. Excitement is a powerful driver and it can encourage you to throw yourself head first into a gold mine. But by burying your head deep inside that very mine, you are potentially blinding yourself from alternative opportunities.
In the creative process, you must force yourself to explore different avenues and ideas, making sure your stray as far away from the path of least resistance. This should also be the case for any decision you make. You must look at all possible points of view and potential opportunities. Try to be extremely creative in your useable time. There may be some pathways that you simply cannot see, demanding you to turn to others; who may be able to point toward the most beneficial path for your future.
Moving a pawn to the end of the board make it a queen. Play the long game and reinvent yourself.
Upon reaching the end of the board, your pawn can transform itself from the lowly, front-line piece to the extraordinarily powerful and omnipresent queen. This transition, although impressive, is not one that can be achieved suddenly or with ease. It’s one that comes from tactics, persistence but also patience. The piece must fly low below the radar long enough to arrive at the other end of its starting position, untouched by its various oncoming attacks.
In times of hardship, you can often feel trapped by your circumstances; tied to the rules and limitations in which you were brought into. Your clouded mind lacks and imagination and you look at your own potential, seeing nothing but the same surroundings which you are encompassed in now. Remember how the pawn, once limited by its monotonous and unimaginative rules, works hard to become a free-moving and dominant queen; whatever stage in which you start, you too can become something much larger than yourself.
Do not become agitated at the slow progression, for you are still progressing. The knight may be a more powerful piece than the pawn, but it lacks discipline and finds itself moving randomly around the board. You, as the pawn, know that you are the smallest and most overlooked piece; but you hold the most potential and by playing the long game, you can transform beyond the restrictions first given to you.
Maintain mental composure and let nothing swerve your plan.
During the game of chess, unbeknown to you, you might quickly find your elegant plan becoming the victim of surprise and intimidation. Before long, your game style will flip completely from the orchestrated waltz choreographed from the beginning, to an inelegant freestyle with countless missteps. Attempting to recall the attack on your position becomes difficult, and the memory of your slip ups become hazy. You have well and truly, lost your game.
Avoiding these scenarios demands precise and real-time analysis and a training in a few tactics that give you the ability to spot and know where you have failed to win at your game:
Firstly, do not allow the pressure of time to kill your carefully thought out strategy. You spent countless hours planning. You’ve had sleepless nights replaying events which you have previously been involved in. You are mentally as ready as you could be to take on your next opponent. Yet the moment you find an unpredictable move entering your reality; you waste little time in choosing a rapid response. You refuse to allow yourself time to bleed out, yet in moving at this speed, you are actually creating opportunities further down the line for your enemies to strike at you again. You must instead seek to form as complete a picture as possible before responding to your enemy’s action. Consider all the options and lean on your understanding of previous encounters to give your strategy a road to mightily ride through once again.
You must also learn to humble your fear. Your fear comes via intimidation, and you can often find alternative perspectives which allow you to see the intimidating factor in its true light: a conquerable illusion that stands between you and your endgame. In the practice of humbling your ego, you are required to truly understand the uselessness of ego first. In the same way, belittling your fear demands that you first experience true fear and then swiftly move beyond it.
Author Frank Herbert once wrote, ‘Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.’
Mental unbalance and the collapse of your composure is something that can spring from anywhere at anytime, but out of practising these strategies consistently, you will notice and know how to handle oncoming obstacles that demand a careful and deliberately planned response.
For the beginner, the game of chess can be an overwhelming challenge at first glance. It demands the player to understand a whole plethora of pieces; each with their own rules, manoeuvres and strategic manoeuvres. The dated origin of chess logically suggests that there are plenty of players who have mastered the game and have unparalleled understanding of its many complexities and combinations. To enter the world of chess with a young mind is a potentially daunting experience.
Likewise, you may feel overwhelmed and scared by the upcoming challenge of life itself. With a unimaginable amount of work and untapped knowledge ahead of you and many masters and champions siting in a league beyond your own – success seems unreachable and your world begins to feel unbearably large.
But in both scenarios, the best strategy is simply to focus on one aspect: the end game. In chess, by removing all the pieces besides any two pieces and a king and only learning the many ways in which you can checkmate your opponent, you open your mind to see opportunities for checkmate far earlier in the game. You will then be able to create unbeatable strategies within the context of the given circumstance during the game in order to execute on your final goal of checkmate. Traditionally when attempting to learn to play the game well, you fumble around trying to tackle every single opening, tactic and possible move. You misuse time cramming the mind with focused and quite often inapplicable knowledge for your upcoming battle. Likewise, in your challenge to win at your own life, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the number of career avenues, business ideas and unnecessary distractions; focus on understanding what your definition of success really is. By devoting time to figuring out what it is that you would want to do for the rest of your life and what would make you truly fulfilled, you can save yourself years of repositioning and vaguely out of control decision making. Practise your end game, and then make this your north star for your every life choice.
Siegbert Tarrasch was a great chess player who became one of the most influential chess teachers of the late 19th to early 20th century. He once stated that, ‘many have become chess masters; no one has become the master of chess.’ This is true in both chess and in life.
There is always room to improve, to become more strategic, to become more knowledgable and, to become a master.